Monday, November 2, 2015

Dressed Up, But No Place to Go


Map picture

After our exhausting day on the bus, Lisa and I were dead tired, so when the next afternoon came around and the ship anchored off the small Isla Pan de Azucar in order that we could spend 90 minutes in a zodiac cruising around looking for penguins, we pulled the sheets up. As it turned out, we are very early into their breeding season; those who went said there was not much to be seen.

The ship sailed all night and into the next morning to arrive at the Isla Chanaral, home to the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve. This sounded exciting, and would once again involve sailing around the small islands. However, during the evening, we encountered ever increasing swells to where the bow of the ship was coming up out of the water and afterwards coming down with a resounding thud. Not only passengers, but also many of the crew were under the weather. Our captain made a valiant effort to find enough shelter to allow safe operation of the zodiacs, but in the end, we gave up and headed for our next port, Coquimbo, Chile. Since we had canceled the afternoon and because it was so miserable, the ship sailed at full speed to enter the port in the early evening. Because of this, we spent the night in port getting a good night’s rest rather than being miserable another night.

While in Coquimbo the following morning, the ship offered a bus tour into the Elqui Valley, eventually spending some time in the sleepy and colorful little town of Vicuna which was known for its handicrafts. It turned out that there were several problems ahead. First and foremost, the Captain moved up the ship’s departure, which cut an hour out of a 4 hour tour. Next, it was a Sunday in a very Catholic country so nothing was happening, and just to make matter it worse, it was also a public holiday. So when we arrived in Vicuna, it was as quiet as tomb. In the end, we had done a three plus hour bus ride for essentially no reason.

If there is one inviolate rule in cruising, it is that the ship must be at the port on a turnaround day on time--no exceptions! Too many people have flights, and schedules to meet for that not to happen. Given the poor conditions on the ocean, our Captain was concerned about arriving into Valparaiso on time. As it turned out, he was right to worry. The seas were rough, we had a terrible current against us, and the winds were strong and blowing right at us. At times our speed forward was only 9kts, which is a crawl. In fact, we actually did arrive this morning a little late, but not too much.

Arriving into Valparaiso involved the usual mad rush of activity. People have to leave, rooms must be turned, and luggage off loaded, and then on again, and today is also a major resupply stop. While all this is going on, we were offered an optional half-day tour into the wine country, but decided instead to stay on board.

We watched as local authorities made it very difficult to depart the ship. Coaches were not allowed up to the vessel, but instead everyone and all the bags had to be transported two miles away to the main terminal even though there was an exit gate within an easy walk behind our ship. We debated going ashore on our own since the ship provided a 15 minute shuttle to the main gate, and finally decided to go for it. So we got out our money and jackets, camera at the ready, and all dressed up we exited the gangway when half way down the long flight of stairs we realized that it was raining. Turning around we checked back into the ship and told ourselves at least we tried, then promptly fell asleep until lunch.

During lunch, we spoke to a couple who had gone out earlier before the rain and this once again got our interest up, and so we returned to the room and prepared once again for an outing. Just before we walked out the cabin door we made a quick check to see when we were due back on the ship and found that we had only two hours. From what the other couple had said, it could take up to an hour just to go to the gate and back; if you missed the bus, which worse case would leave us one hour – not worth it. So for the second time today, we were all dressed up with no place to go.

Tomorrow is a day at sea, thus it will be awhile before I have more to share. I have been working on the pictures, but cannot upload them because of some computer problem impacting guests who have stayed on. We are promised they are working on it, but alas, we’ll see.


No comments: